The Australian Shepherd is a fearless, affable, faithful, stout and frisky working dog, which was initially bred in the western United States by ranchers and sheepherders. This versatile dog is able to adjust to almost any living condition or circumstance as long as its exercise requirements are properly satisfied. The majority of its specimens help managing livestock on pastures of the United States and quite a few of them are bought solely for a companionship.
Although the name of the Australian Shepherd implies its Australian origin, actually this dog was developed as a livestock herder in the western part of America somewhere in the XIX century. The ancestry of this breed can be traced only to the certain extent because at that time breeders cared very little about studbooks or conformation.
The breeds’ primary forebear was most likely a long-coated, bobtailed, collie-type canine, which was brought to the USA with shipment of sheep from Australia in the 40s of the XIX century – therefore the name. It’s widely accepted that the German sheepdog was also actively used in its development. Before and after the Second World War Basque shepherds arrived to work in America and brought along their herding dogs, which were also often mated with the local version of the Australian Shepherd.
For over a century this intelligent dog is prized as a universal worker by farmers, ranchers and sheepherders. The Australian Shepherd is extremely effective at mastering unruly cattle, driving in horses into trailers, herding various livestock, pulling carts and passing messages. Its popularity soared after the end of the Second World War when Western-style horseback riding once again drew attention of general public.
An appealing appearance and remarkable intelligence of this dog made it a talented artist. In the 50s and 60s of the XX century Australian Shepherds Shorty and Queenie entertained audience with their antics in the canine show, which was carried out in places ranging from Madison Square Garden to the Calgary Stampede.
The members of the Australian Shepherd excel in agility, obedience and other performance canine sports. Thanks to its docility, unparalleled quick-wittedness and gentle nature the breed serves not only as a farmer dog but also as a therapy, guide and search-and-rescue dog. Dog lovers find temperament of this dog adorable and often keep it exclusively as a family pet. Despite such overall admiration the breed was fully recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC) only in 1993.
The Australian Shepherd is marked by attentive, adjustable, vigorous and loyal nature. Since it was developed as an independent decision maker it needs regular mental stimulation and plentiful of interactions with its master. This dog seeks to be included in each and every family activity and will feel itself absolutely miserable if left alone too often or for too long. Correctly socialised specimen will make a careful and gentle playmate for family children although it should be always supervised while playing with a toddler.
Because of its inherent protective instinct the Australian Shepherd is usually mistrustful of all strangers. Human aggressiveness may become a serious issue if you don’t invest sufficient time and effort into socialisation of your pet. This dog always scans its surroundings for something or someone suspicious so it is well-suited for the role of a watcher. It also displays the outmost courage in defending its subordinate territory and human family from all sorts of danger and makes an excellent guardian.
In general the Australian Shepherd is polite with both familiar and unfamiliar dogs. Be mindful though that this inborn herder can’t resist the urge of chasing every moving object so it must be always securely leashed while outside. Nonetheless this dog is capable of living in harmony with individual pets provided they were introduced to each other in a young age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· autoimmune diseases;
· eye problems;
· congenital deafness;
· dental problems;
· canine hip dysplasia;
· osteochondritis dissecans;
· patellar luxation;
· patent ductus arteriosus.
The Australian Shepherd has dense semi-long hair, which requires moderate amount of maintenance. Its owner should thoroughly brush the dog’s coat once a week and more frequently during shedding times. This breed sheds lightly the whole year around and very heavily during spring as it gets rid of its winter coat.
Bathe your pet only when it’s very dirty, which most likely won’t happen more than one in every 4-6 months. Regular nail trimming is also essential if the dog doesn’t wear them off in a natural way. Make sure to examine the dog’s ears from time to time and clean them if necessary. In order to look tidy and well-groomed your Aussie will need periodic trimming of the hair around ears, on its feet, between the toes and near the tail.
The smart and obedient Australian Shepherd is a highly trainable breed. It loves nothing more than to make its owner happy and content so it can be taught to perform basic commands with minimal amounts of repetitions. However once it has coped with a standard course it should be offered to master more sophisticated tricks.
Firm training should never be used with this dog as it works very assiduously even if stimulated with encouraging words or a small treat. The breeds’ specimens are very competitive at various canine trials, which require agility, quick wits and tenacity.
The Australian Shepherd is an accomplished athlete with incredible stamina and work drive. This means that this dog won’t be totally content with its existence without a great amount of daily physical exercise. Active families will like boundless energies of this dog although they will probably run ragged to meet its exercise need if they live in a city.
That’s why it would be wiser to adopt this breed if one has a house with a large but safely enclosed backyard. Remember that separation anxiety, destructiveness, excessive barking and other behavioural problems commonly develop in dogs, which are denied of necessary physical and emotional stimulation.